Date of Award:

12-2018

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Biological and Irrigation Engineering

Advisor/Chair:

Randolph V. Lewis

Abstract

Due to its strength, flexibility, and biocompatibility, spider silk is a highly appealing material for applications in the medical field. Unfortunately, natural spider silk is difficult to obtain in large quantities because spiders are territorial and cannibalistic, making them impractical to farm. Synthetic spider silk proteins produced by transgenic hosts such as bacteria and goats have made it possible to obtain the quantities of spider silk needed to study it more fully and to investigate its potential uses. The spider silk proteins produced in our laboratory do not have an optimal purification method to remove all of the non-biocompatible contaminants and have not previously been tested for their biocompatibility. The first focus of this dissertation was to create goat cells that can be used to create new goats. These new goats will produce proteins that can be purified more efficiently and more completely. The second focus of this dissertation was to perform biocompatibility tests on goat-derived spider silk proteins. Prior to performing any biocompatibility tests, a method was established for removing endotoxins – an impurity that causes an immune response in the body – from the proteins. This work has shed light on areas for improvement in the silk protein purification process and laid groundwork for the production of new goat-derived proteins. These steps will help make it possible for synthetic spider silk to progress further toward becoming a viable biomaterial.

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